Monday, May 21, 2012

A Kid with a Bike

tour guide said:

"In Munich the bikes are above car, man, and God."

she said:

And so it has seemed since we entered the Schengen Area (an area of European countries between which border checks become virtually non-existent), starting with the lakeside town of Keszthely, Hungary. Here, a bike rental (equal in price to a cup of coffee) meant not just having easy access to the town itself, but to several other places worth exploring...

Lakeside, field-side, forest-side, fortress ruins-side, palace-side.

he said:

Keszthely was a really nice change of pace, but after the week it was onward and upward to Budapest.

We've traveled through many cities that call themselves the gateway between east and west including Istanbul, Sophia, Bucharest, and Budapest. I hereby proclaim that Budapest deserves the title! Budapest effortlessly gives you physical and cultural access to both sides of the Euro coin.

Just the quick rant because what would a post be without it: Not sure I agree with the idea but Budapest's skyline reflects an interesting perspective.  In an effort to represent equality between religion and politics the Hungarian Parliament building and Saint Stephen's Basilica are the same height. In the true fashion of petty politics this was "fixed" when a big ol' red star was slapped on top of the Parliament building during communist occupation. 

she said:

As with most of the cities along our European route, we took some time to get acquainted with the city via Free Walking Tour Budapest. A piece of advice we might have expected but hadn't heard on the previous walks:
"Watch out for the crazy people on bikes. They have right of way and they will run you down. I know, I'm one of them."
he said:

Next was Vienna and on first impression it was super posh. I was right, when we tried to acquire bikes it felt like we had crossed a divide and were in the ultra modern world again.  The ABM (Automatic Bike Machine) requires a unique credit card for each bike being rented.  I say, "No dice you soulless enabler of leisurely afternoons, I operate on a gentleman's agreement not the threat of a delinquency on my credit report."

she said:

And that brings us to Munich, where "bikes are above car, man, and God," and they certainly seem to be just as abundant. Some of the places a bike in Munich might get you...

Into and around city center.
Out to the local football club for a meal and some matches.
Out to any number of beer gardens for a mug or two.

Please let the bike trend continue, at least when there's no rain and the travel is downhill.
THANK YOU TO: Evi at the Goat Hostel in Budapest for being so helpful and delightful; my cousin for her company and for showing us the best parts of Vienna; old co-workers and friends in Munich who put us up and made sure our days were busy.  
Hello Prague, my baby brother, and some Volleyball.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Walk the Line

they said:

Something we're quickly learning to love now that we've reached Europe: the free walking tour. Besides the price, these are a great "to do" in any city for a variety of reasons:

1) You get a run down of most of the major landmarks and historical sites of a city, as well as an on-foot orientation so you can return to the places that catch your interest.

2) You meet a local who's proud of their city and interested in sharing it with others.

3) You learn a bit of local history, a bit about current events (if you ask), and a few fun tidbits that you'd normally only get from digging through the history books for hours.

Fun tidbits from the Bucharest and Brasov city walking tours...

she said:

In order to build Bucharest's Palace of the Parliament, Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu tore down a huge section of the city's historic district and displaced the inhabitants of 30,000 some odd residences. This created so much unrest within the city that the party thought twice before destroying all of the area's local churches. Their solution was to pick up and move many of the most prominant churches to other parts of the city, often hiding them between bigger buildings in hopes that people would simply forget them. The farthest was moved 300 metres from it's original site.

In another case – in order to expand a roadway – an entire apartment block was moved with everyone but the first floor residents still inside; no disruption to power, water, or other utilities.

he said:

After all those residents were displaced a problem emerged: street violence. Drive by barkings, grand theft kebabs, biting under the influence...  that's right, feral dogs! Owners being forcibly moved couldn't take their household pets and the city's dog population exploded.  Ignorance is bliss, I had no idea these dogs were vicious but we heard so many stories.  Long time Bucaresters still walk to the other side of the street if a dog is in their path.

Obviously, it's more of an aesthetics and hygiene problem than anything else but be aware these dogs will mess you up if you don't respect.

Something completely unrelated; mob justice. After civil unrest Ceauşescu tries to flee the country, likely to Egypt or Libya.  The former members of the communist regime declare democracy and assume positions of power. This is all while Ceauşescu is basically airborne.  His helicopter pilot persuades him to land which results in immediate capture and  a quickly organized two hour trial. The sentence is execution by firing squad.

Just think of how quickly he would have been killed if they hadn't decided on democracy!

From top left: The Piata Unirii Fountain, in Front of the Palace of the Parliament. Statue of Vlad the Impaler, thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Equestrian Statue of King Carol I of Romania. View down the historical Strada Stavropoleos. A collection of relics from other churches torn down during the communist reign, at Stavropoleos Church. The Bucharesti Opera House.

she said:

According to local legend in Brasov, a band of thieves robs the remains of a local noble-woman buried in Biserica Neagră (the Black Church). They decide they can't leave without stealing a particularly valuable ring and in the process of cutting off her cold dead finger they manage to WAKE HER UP. The thieves are pardoned because of the miracle and the woman lives on – minus a digit, but with no less jewelery.

Biserica Neagră, the Black Church. So named because of a fire in 1689 that destroyed most of the building and left the remains blackened.

From top left: Daily procession of the Guard, in Council Square. City Hall Square Fountain. Council Square Tower. Brasov City Gate. St. Nicholas Cathedral. View from the Black Tower. BRASOV glowing sign.

To all the tour guides out there, please keep up the great work! Thanks for all the great information, and to Loana for taking us around Brasov even when no one else showed up. Hello Hungarian Goulash.